No matter what people say, bigger is always better – especially when we’re talking heavy metal. And heavy metal doesn’t get much bigger than Fozzy. The band is the brainchild of Rich Ward and Chris Jericho, two larger-than-life, trailblazing personalities that have spent the past decade shaping their own brand of sonic splendor, Ward’s incendiary guitars forging a path for Jericho’s inimitable vocals atop a rhythmic foundation of earth-rattling proportions. Not that anybody should be surprised. Ward is one of metal’s pioneers – the mastermind of Stuck Mojo, he soldered metal with rhythmic rap vocals long before it became fashionable, touring the world with some of metal’s biggest bands and being hailed as one of Pantera legend Dimebag Darrell and Black Label Society/Ozzy Osbourne axe man Zakk Wylde’s favorite guitarists. And frontmen don’t come more dynamic than Chris Jericho, one of professional wrestling’s biggest superstars, the embodiment of charisma, and the byproduct of a lifetime spent immersed in heavy metal.
In the past several years, Fozzy have emerged as a worldwide force on the touring circuit, conquering stages from Los Angeles to Lichtenvoorde, and everywhere in between – including a successful spot on the Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Festival. Without question, this powerful band has become the driving force for the six-time WWE wrestling champion and is ready to leave a mark on the metal scene for years to come! Although Chris Jericho has conquered prime time in his epic career in professional wrestling and his stint on “Dancing With The Stars” – now it’s time for Fozzy to conquer the world of heavy metal.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Chris Jericho to discuss his musical roots, the making of their amazing new album, “Sin and Bones,” their upcoming dates on the Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Festival, his plans for a third autobiography and much more! Let the madness begin…
You are a professional wrestling legend who is now making his mark on the music scene. Going back, how did music first come into your life and what are your first musical memories?
The first band I ever really got into was the Beatles, back when I was 7 or 8 years old. My parents were really into them and I would listen to all of their 8-tracks. “Let It Be” and “Help,” they had those records for sure. I started getting into it from there and every birthday that came around, I would have my mom get me a new Beatles record. They are definitely the first band I ever fell in love with. When I was about 12 years old, I started playing in bands. My cousin had a bass guitar and I thought he was so cool because he had Paul Stanley’s autograph! I thought, “Well fuck! If he has Paul Stanley’s autograph on a bass guitar, this is something I really want to get into!” [laughs] That is where it all started for me. At 12 years old, I started my first band called Sinotaur and that was my band all throughout high school. I always say, when I was a kid I had two dreams — I wanted to be in a rock band and I wanted to be a wrestler. I have been fortunate and crazy enough to have both of those dreams come true!
These days you lean toward the metal side of things. Who were some of your influences in that genre that helped to shape the man we see today?
Remember that back in the early ‘80s, being a Beatles fan wasn’t cool, believe it or not, like it is today where they are this iconic, legendary entity. I started to notice that all of the girls were wearing Ozzy shirts or Priest shirts and I thought, “Wow! If I am ever going to get a date, maybe I should start getting into some of these bands!” [laughs] The first metal album I bought was “Blizzard of Ozz” and that is where the metal side of things began for me. I was hooked from there! Obviously, Ozzy [Osbourne] is a huge influence. I love Iron Maiden and Metallica, they are my two favorite bands of all-time besides the Beatles. I was really into The Police as well. There is a German band called Helloween, which is one of my favorite bands as well.
How about the great rock ‘n’ roll frontmen who influenced you in some fashion?
Yeah! I was always really into Paul Stanley. As a singer and entertainer, he is one of the best. David Lee Roth as well! I really, really felt a connection to James Hetfield, he was always my guy, along with Michael Weikath from Helloween. Michael Weikath and Bruce Dickinson have the greatest metal voices of all time. Those were all of the guys I was interested in more than any others, as far as frontmen, because they were great singers as well.
Fozzy has been together for 13 years now, which is an impressive feat for any band. For those who don’t know, how did the band initially form?
Yeah, man! We are pretty lucky to be together after 13 years and find ourselves getting bigger by the day. A lot of bands don’t really have that. It comes from the hard work we have put in. We started in 1999 as five friends playing music, like a lot of people do. Because of who was in the band at the time, Chris Jericho from the WWE and Rich Ward from Stuck Mojo, there was a real buzz about the band. I think the thing with Fozzy, which has really come into play ever since the last record, “Chasing The Grail,” came out is that a lot of people had certain preconceptions about who we were as a band. There was the notion of, “Oh, that’s the band with the wrestler singing.” Sometimes that helped but a lot of times it hurt because people may have felt it wasn’t real or whatever. I think it has now gotten to the point, especially after the last record and now with “Sin and Bones” coming out, where people don’t really care what it is that Jericho does with Fozzy because they know it is real! It is a real rock ‘n’ roll band with great tunes and great players! It is almost like a 30 Seconds To Mars type thing where you have Jared Leto, who is an actor by trade, but it doesn’t matter because his band kicks ass, he is a great singer and a great frontman! I haven’t heard one person say, “Oh, Thirty Seconds To Mars? That is just some actor’s band.” That is kinda what we have going on with Fozzy now. After 13 years together, we have gone from being a wrestler’s band to being a great fuckin’ band that can go toe to toe with anybody live or in the studio!
Tell us about Fozzy’s lineup and what these great players bring to the table for a kick-ass project like this.
Rich Ward and Frank Fontsere were in Stuck Mojo for many years. Rich was the creator and mastermind behind that very pioneering band back in the mid-’90s. They were very popular in the underground and all across Europe. Both of those guys have been in Fozzy since the inception and, obviously, Rich is my partner in crime! Billy Grey was with us up until 2002 when he left to play in another band but we brought him back in 2010. Billy is one of the best kept secrets in rock ‘n’ roll guitar playing. Paul Di Leo is our new bass player and he has played with everybody! He is one of those type of guys that has played with Paul Simon and Billy Joel to Ace Frehley and Joe Lynn Turner. His main gig was playing with Nena, who is best known in The States for “99 Red Balloons.” Unbeknownst to the rest of us, Nena is a huge touring act over in Germany and he plays with her quite a bit as well! As you can see, we have some very seasoned players, not just as a band and as musicians, but from a show performance angle. I think we put on one of the best shows that you will see! There are no props really, it is just the energy and vibe we have on stage. Like I said earlier, after all these years of working so hard, piece by piece, everything came together and now the band is poised to take it to the next level — that is exactly what is going to happen with this new record!
It goes without saying you are a busy man with many irons in the fire at any given point. Is it safe to say Fozzy became a top priority for you?
Yeah, it has been since “Chasing The Grail” came out in 2010. That was the point when we decided that we had something really special here and we could really do something with this and it became time to put all of our effort and focus into the band. I was gone from the WWE for a year-and-a-half when “Grail” came out. During that time, we toured 16 countries and built up a really good fan base everywhere. When it came time to make “Sin and Bones,” I knew I would have about six months of free time. I came back to the WWE and as of August 14, 2012, when “Sin and Bones” comes out, we go on the road with the Uproar Tour. At that time, I am done with the WWE and it is full-time with Fozzy until the album cycle and touring is done. Like I said, this is something I have been doing since I was 12 years old — it is part of who I am. I think I am very fortunate to have had two dreams that have come true, both of them in these very big ways. Fozzy is slowly catching up to where I am wrestling-wise. If I were to retire tomorrow, I would be very happy with all the things we have done as a band. We have worked really hard to get here and have all the pieces of the puzzle there and ready — it has been a whirlwind! I want to continue to build on those achievements!
“Sin and Bones” is definitely an album to get excited about. What can you tell us about the writing process for the album and how it all came together?
It was a template that we had used on “Chasing The Grail,” where I wrote all of the lyrics and then sent them to Rich Ward. Rich went through the lyrics, got some vibe, feeling or inspiration from them and started writing his riffs accordingly. That worked really, really well for us on that record. When it came time to do “Sin and Bones,” I went through my list of song titles. That is where I get all of my ideas. If I hear something that intrigues me as an interesting song title, I will put it on my list. When it is time to write lyrics, I will go back and pick the titles that do something for me and work backwards from there. I wrote 14 or 15 sets of lyrics and sent them over to Rich and he started working his magic! That is the genesis for all of our songs at this point.
What inspired the title of the new album?
It’s funny really, Rich was texting somebody when we were on tour in Europe somewhere. We were dieting, so there wasn’t a lot of food around to eat. He was texting this guy and said, “I have to get a good meal soon. I am starting to turn into skin and bones.” Only when he wrote “Skin and Bones,” he missed a letter, so it read “Sin and Bones.” He showed it to me and asked, “What do you think of this as a title?” I said, “That’s it man! That’s amazing!” It came from a mistake as most genius ideas do! [laughs]
You have been working with these guys for a while and definitely had an idea of what you wanted to do for this album. Is there anything that stood out as a big challenge or a hurdle for you?
I don’t know about hurdles but I definitely think that the melodies that Rich wrote for me to sing, pushed me as a singer. Not pushed me in a bad way but it pushed me in a good way! After touring for 18 months in 16 countries, you really get a sense of who you are as a singer, your range and what your wheelhouse is. I think I have done the best singing of my career on this record. It wasn’t a pushing thing but more of a knowing what you do best thing!
After five albums, you get a lot of experience and a lot of ideas of what you can do more or a little bit less of, whatever it may be. It is like anything, if you are a journalist and write more articles, you get better at it. If you are a quarterback and you throw more passes, you get better at it. I think I have grown into my voice from the years of experience I have at this point. It is really about learning to use your instrument the best way you can. When you are in the studio and you have three or four takes, you can blow out your voice. When you are on the road, sometimes you have to pull back and not blow out your voice because you have to sing again the next night. It all comes from experience, being a pro and knowing how to use your instrument. Your voice, just as much as a drum or a guitar is your instrument, so you have to treat it as such. It is a muscle as well, so you have to treat it like working your biceps or your chest. You can’t overtrain it or rip it up, you have to be smart with what you are doing — take it to the limit but don’t take it too far.
I think the biggest hurdle for us was having M. Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold on “Sandpaper” with us. He did a great job and actually helped us with the arrangement and put a lot of effort into it. Then we had to get permission from Warner Brothers, so that is when the business part of the music business came into play! That can be hard sometimes! That is a hurdle that we thought we would have a hard time clearing but it actually came together very easily, I think much to M. Shadows’ assistance and the working relationship between Warner Brothers and our label, Century Media. That was the one thing I was scared about but it worked out great and we got permission and all is well! [laughs]
You will be headed out on the Uproar Tour very soon. What do you hope fans come away with after seeing Fozzy live?
The cool thing about it is this is our first tour in The States — our first tried and true, coast to coast tour! To be on a bill like Uproar with Godsmack, Papa Roach, Shinedown and Staind is a great place for us to be! We want to be the best band in the world and I want everybody, every day to say, “Wow! Fozzy stole the show!” That has always been our plan. That is what we do when we play big festivals in Europe or when we play small clubs wherever. From the smallest of clubs to the biggest of festivals, we want to steal the show and have people say, “Hands down, that was the best band!” That has always been the game plan and that is what we work very hard to do every night we play!
You guys have a new home on Century Media. What can you tell us about partnering with them and what it means to you as a metal fan and artist?
It is a huge label for us and we are really, really excited to be a part of this family. They have so many great bands like In Flames, In This Moment, Iced Earth and Lacuna Coil. They have some of the biggest bands on the planet, in our world, on that label! Century Media knows how to market, how to do radio and everything in between. Our cover is a great example. We have had a very successful business model in doing everything ourselves and now we can let go a little bit because we know there are pros working behind the scenes, doing the same thing for us as those other bands. Our new album cover is the best one we have ever had, simply because we had professionals doing it. We didn’t have to worry about having to find it on the net or finding a friend of a friend who knows graphic arts to create the cover. Now we have someone in our corner whose job it is to make awesome album covers. Like I said, this is the best album cover we have ever had and that is because we are working with a major label. When you are working with the best, those little things start to add up and that is definitely the case with Century Media.
Now you have major label backing, has there been any talk of a possible DVD/Blu-ray release to capture the Fozzy live performance experience?
Oh yeah! We would love to! We did a DVD of some live stuff that we were going to release with the record but the idea with Century Media was, “Why focus on old stuff when you can focus on something new.” I think that is definitely one of the thought processes. I am really looking forward to getting on the road, really honing our band and focusing our attack! Once you do that for a couple of months, a DVD release is the next obvious thing. We would love to do that to capture the power of the band on film!
You have spent years on the road in your career as a professional wrestler. How does the experience of touring with a band compare?
Show business is show business, ya know? In a band, everyone travels together. We all get in the bus and ride together and it is pretty cool. It is much easier to do it that way than in the WWE where you are getting off a plane, renting a car, turning it in, get on the plane, going to the next town, renting a car, drive to the arena, head to the next town, back to the airport, turn in the car, back to the plane! [laughs] It really is grueling scheduling-wise. Zakk Wylde always asks me, “Why don’t you just get a bus?” And I tell him, “It’s not really like that! You can’t get a bus for a whole year!” Touring with the band, certainly has it pros and cons. At this point, I enjoy touring with Fozzy so much, at least the onroad part of it, because it is a easy way of doing things than life on the road in the WWE.
You always had eyes on you coming from the world of pro-wrestling, in arenas big and small. You always seem so cool, calm and collected. The same is true with Fozzy. Do you get nervous before taking the stage or is it easy at this point, having done it so many times?
You always get nerves. I get nerves any time I go on stage, whether it is with Fozzy, WWE, “Dancing With The Stars” or whatever it may be. If you don’t get nervous before you do something in a live situation, it is probably time to retire. I say that because it is part of what drives you. Whenever I am doing something in front of a live audience, you have those butterflies, as you should! It is a good feeling to have!
You played and rubbed elbows with some of the biggest names in metal. What is the best piece of advice someone has given you along the way?
When we toured with Anthrax last year, we were doing a sing-a-long thing during one of our songs. We had about 30 minutes to play on that tour and we were done. One of the guys said, “Just play songs, man. The more songs you can play, the better it is! It is cool to do the stuff with the crowd and everything but when you only have 30 minutes, you are better off doing six songs and a few lines of dialog than five songs and two or three minutes of dialog.” It was a really interesting point because if you watch one of the greatest live performances of all-time, which is Queen at Live Aid in ’86, they had 20 minutes. They went out there and they killed it! They said barely anything to the crowd and had one of the greatest, if not the greatest, shows of all-time! You can get a lot of good advice from the Anthrax and Queen camps. The more songs you play, that is where you can really capture the vibe and the energy from the crowd, rather than talking in between.
Spinal Tap moments — everybody has one. Is there something in particular that stands out in your mind as your biggest Jericho Spinal Tap Moment?
Ya know, you can never say it is your biggest because there are 10,000 of them! [laughs] One of them that stands out in my mind is when I was on stage and there were these two super hot girls in the front row pointing at me while I was singing. They just kept singing and giggling. I was thinking, “Wow! These girls are really into what I am doing!” They are pointing at my lower abdominal area and I am thinking, “They are really being wide open with what they want here!” [laughs] They just kept on smiling, laughing, pointing and giggling! That is when I realized that my fly was wide open and my underwear was hanging out! That is why David Lee Roth wore spandex, no flies!
At this point in your career, do you feel there are misconceptions about yourself and Fozzy?
Probably not. I like to say that the only people who don’t like our band are people who have never heard our band. I think if you are into hard rock or heavy metal, you will like Fozzy. We have figured out what we do. We play very heavy music that is very melodic with hooky choruses. It is a cross between Metallica and Journey, let’s say. I think there are a lot of people just starting to discover the band thinking, “What the fuck were we waiting for?” I think the biggest misconception about Fozzy is that you wouldn’t like us! If you do like rock ‘n’ roll, you will like this band because we are doing something not a lot of other bands are doing right now. It is kind of our secret weapon! We get a lot of people, when they come and see us, saying, “Wow! It was the first time we ever saw Fozzy and you blew us away!” My response to that is, “Exactly! Welcome to our evil web! Muhahahahaha! ” [evil laugh]
You certainly paid your dues and show no signs of slowing down. What is the best part of being Chris Jericho these days?
It is the same as it was any day before. I am really fortunate to be doing what I love to do, touring the world with my friends and living my dream twofold. A lot of people don’t get to do that and it is not something I take for granted. I really appreciate all of the opportunities I have had these things. Touring the world with my best friends while entertaining people and putting smiles on the faces and making them bang their heads a little bit — there is nothing wrong with that!
Absolutely not! You already penned two of the most compelling autobiographies that one could hope for. Rumor has it you are working on a third?
Yeah! Rumor has it that I have signed a deal for a third but I haven’t really started working on it yet because I have been pretty busy. However, that is one of the things I start doing when we hit the road with Uproar. You have a lot of time to kill on tour! When you have 30 minutes on stage each night, it leaves you with 23 1/2 hours in between to kill! I am sure there will be a lot of working on the foundation on the book then. It is a long project, writing a book, and like you said, I have been fortunate enough to write two very good ones in the past. I have big shoes to fill or books to write when it comes to this third one! When the time is right, I will get the muse and get the inspiration. I already have more than enough material for the third book, so I think people will dig it when it is ready to go!
A huge milestone for WWE with the 1,000th episode of RAW tonight. Looking back on your time there, what stands out to you as some of your greatest moments there?
It’s really cool! Someone pointed out to me the other day that I have the second most matches in RAW history. Of all the guys who have ever been on RAW, I have the second most matches. When you think about it like that, that’s a long fuckin’ time, man! [laughs] There have been so many great memories, like when I beat Triple H for the title back in 2000, when I returned in 2007 and clotheslined the torchbearer for Randy Orton and I smashed a Jack Daniels bottle over CM Punk’s head just a few months back! There are so many things that have happened, it is really cool when people remind you of the things you have forgotten! One of the things I had forgotten, I was reminded of recently when someone said, “Oh, I loved it when you peed in William Regal’s tea!” [laughs] I said “Ahhhh, yes, back when wrestling was wrestling! I peed in someones tea!” [laughs] There ya go, that’s the fondest memory! [laughs]
Any other projects you have in the works we should be on the lookout for?
There is always something going on but right now, I am just getting ready to get out there and promote “Sin and Bones” and play as many shows as we can! I want to continue to spread the Foz-spel to every country we play in! Last time we did 16 countries and this time I am hoping we do 25 countries! We really just want to spread the word, spread the love and do what I do best, which is entertain people. It is something I have been doing since I was 19 years old and I have no intentions of stopping!
Awesome! Keep up the excellent work and keep spreading the metal!
Thanks a lot, bud! I appreciate it and I will talk to you again soon!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.